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I sometimes work with texts which have an antiquated atmosphere about them, and I occasionally come across the expression to sit at meat in such as

At that time it was degrading to sit at meat with Samaritans.

or

He that serves is greater than he that sits at meat.

I found it explained in dictionaries like the free dictionary or Webster's. I even checked the etymology of meat as given in the Online Etymology Dictionary:

meat (n.)

Middle English mēte, from Old English mete "food, nourishment, sustenance" (paired with drink), "item of food; animal food, fodder," also "a meal, repast," from Proto-Germanic *mati ...

Narrower sense of "flesh of warm-blooded animals killed and used as food" is attested from c. 1300 (earlier this was flesh-meat, early 12c.).

but I still don't understand how meat, a word used for food in general, came to mean a particular type of food, flesh of animals used as food.

Edit: I thought it would be interesting to follow the evolution of the use and meaning of this word, if someone had any knowledge or information about this.

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    I’m voting to close this question because the meanings of many / most words change over time, so it's not at all unusual that this has happened with "meat". Or "silly" or "leech", for example Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 11:59
  • The link you gave is very helpful! I was simply intrigued by the shift from general to particular in the evolution of this word.
    – fev
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 12:07
  • I'd be pretty sure that in total, more words will have shifted from the particular to the general case, rather than the other way around. If only because initially all we're aware of is individual things - it takes time to identify categories that they can be grouped into. And very often the newly-identified category will simply be assigned the name of its best-known member, or some other associated term that was essentially "particular" Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 12:38
  • Yes, this is why this shift in "meat" amazed me.
    – fev
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 12:41
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    I seem to recall that Plato made note of the phenomenon in relation to how poet (ποιήτης), a word originally meaning simply "maker," had narrowed in meaning to "maker of verses." Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 13:33

2 Answers 2

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Meat, in the sense of solid food as distinguished from drink, is an archaic form for dinner, a metaphor for the main meal:

(archaic) - especially DINNER

(M-W)

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    yes, and? How did it come to mean "meat" in the sense that we are using it today?
    – fev
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 11:58
  • @fev - Narrower sense of "flesh of warm-blooded animals killed and used as food" is attested from c. 1300 (earlier this was flesh-meat, early 12c.). There is a similar sense evolution in French viande "meat," originally "food." In Middle English, vegetables still could be called grene-mete (15c.) and white meat was "a dairy food or product" (early 15c.). Etymonline
    – user 66974
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 12:27
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The word meat used in God's word to Adam (Genesis 1-2) means meal and specifically not flesh of animals because he did not design his creature at the beginning, before the fall, to kill and eat each other (refer to genesis) but Herbs.

So it is very important to highlight the change of the meaning of this word because behind the change of this word goes the very battle between Good and Evil:

It is not the word that changed, there is still 2 words one for meal one for meat, but the consumption of meat became a daily must in the culture of the world under the influence of Satan. So the use of Ham (meat) became a must with every meal (which is originally the word meat) so that flesh became a must or a standard in a meal (originally meat) so flesh was associated with meat (i.e meal) if you see what I mean.

The world tells you to consume 200gr of flesh for a healthy living while the Creator of all flesh tells you that you have all you need in the herbs of the fields and the fruits of the trees. It is only after the flood when the trees were cut of by the waters and the land desolate that God indicated to Noah that he could use the animals with him as source of survival but surely not as a way of life. God is the spirit over all flesh.

This is why Satan changed the traditions of man to consume Flesh regularly, to consume God's creatures, not for survival but fun, for the twisted pleasures of the tongue and for the foolishness and lack of knowledge to know that all you need and all the taste u seek you can compose with herbs and fruits and grains. But the elite of this world who are under the commands of Satan and his dark networks wants you to buy flesh, to consume flesh to compete and to pollute and became an eater of life.

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  • I think you're misinterpreting Genesis in one way Ado. In the story of the Flood God instructs Noah to take clean beasts into the Ark. The concept of a clean beast to Jews is one which it is kosher to eat when killed according the rites as opposed to unclean beasts which are forbidden. Since God told Noah to take only cloven-footed ruminants and birds into the Ark the practice of eating the flesh of a subset of animals must have been established prior to the Flood.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 7:43
  • @BoldBen A slight clarification: Noah was to take a breeding pair of every type of (land) animal and seven of every type of clean animal.
    – Jed Schaaf
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 7:52

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